I am pleased to see the beginning stages of our investment in the downtown area of Rockwood! RWSG has purchased three lots at the corner of Front Street and West Rockwood Street in order to construct an office building for our billing/administrative staff/mapping staff. RWSG has contracted with an architect and is currently designing the site for construction.
One building is currently demolished and the former Junior’s restaurant will be demolished after appropriate structural support is installed on the common wall of the adjoining building. We are very aware of the history of the area and intend to honor that history with a memorial to be on-site. We are working through the challenges of building downtown and will be posting a rendering of the site when it is available. The downtown site will comply with all floodway and environmental requirements. Our intent, aesthetically, is to replace these buildings with a “downtown” look so that we can encourage additional development of the area. Although there were other options for our location, we felt that is well worth the investment to provide a centralized payment center for our customers while helping to energize the downtown area of Rockwood.
Currently, the Utility rents office space from the City of Rockwood at City Hall to provide a billing/payment office. We have three employees at that location. Our management, accounting, IT and mapping personnel are located on S. Church Street in the maintenance garage site. There are five employees located at this site. By combining these activities to a central site, we intend to provide better efficiency, response and convenience to our customer base. Our new site will also provide drive-thru service, after hours night drop and an online payment kiosk inside.
RWSG has also purchased land along Front Street between Truck Route and Rathburn Street to construct a new Operations Center (with the exception of one tract). This will provide warehouse space, vehicle storage and garage space for our operation and maintenance staff. Our current space on Church Street is not able to provide the security and efficiency that we want to provide to our customers. There is one residence that will be demolished with the current contract due to safety concerns on this site. All other building removal will not occur until the start of construction.
Our master plan includes constructing the two facilities concurrently in order to maximize a savings in the construction. A date for the start of construction is not known at this time. The financial investment for these facilities will be funded through our Natural Gas department and this department will own the facilities and rent to the Water and Sewer department. By funding these facilities in this way, we protect our water and sewer customers from the capital expense of the facilities. Any rate increases for water and sewer will be spent in our system and not our building program. Our Natural Gas department is able to fund the expense without a burden on our ratepayers.
Once again, I am excited that the Board and City Council has supported us to build facilities that will benefit our utility and the community for the future generations. These two facilities will bring approximately 34 employees (full and part-time) to the downtown area in addition to our customer base. Please bear with us as we work through the construction process and feel free to attend our Board meetings or to call and discuss with me at any time.